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New Clause—(Cadet Forces)

Volume 437: debated on Friday 9 May 1947

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The service authorities shall by regulations make special provision for the training of persons who at the time when they are called up have reached a prescribed standard of efficiency in the sea cadet corps, the army cadet force, the junior training corps or the air cadet force.—[Brigadier Prior-Palmer.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I suggest that it is up to the Government to do everything in their power to make up for the officer deficiency which will now be unavoidable on the reduction from 18 to 12 months. I believe that in the cadet forces there is a great opportunity for carrying that into effect. I do not think that in the past the cadet forces they had the sympathetic treatment which they so richly deserve, and we appeal to the Government to give them some incentive. There are two other points which I would like to raise on this new Clause, if I am in Order. One is the question of uniform for these cadet forces. These forces must be allowed a decent uniform, which is readily available, without having to fight everyone in authority to get it, or having to go out into the streets to buy clothing. Secondly, the question of instructors is a matter of vital importance. In the past it has been the habit to send old "sweats" to look after the boys. That should not be continued. They should have the finest material available in the form of instructors—people who are good judges of character, and leaders of men, as well as being experienced in their own job. I press very strongly for that.

Apart from that, the object of this new Clause is that there shall be some further incentive for these boys, and that when they join the Army, they will find some recognition of the hard work which they have put in. It must be remembered that they give up a lot of their spare time to these forces. They go to a drill hall rather than to a cinema, and, on a lovely summer evening, instead of walking on the beach with their girl friends, they are drilling. Therefore they thoroughly deserve a certain amount of recognition. We considered a suggestion that they should get accelerated promotion or some recognition of that sort, but we realise that that is not now practicable. The words on the Order Paper are intended to include some form of recognition and I suggest that, if something specific is not done in that way, within 24 hours of a boy joining his unit his service in the cadet forces will be entirely forgotten. The first moment that he goes into the orderly room and the commanding officer looks through his papers he will see, possibly, that this fellow was a cadet. But in the pressure of work, and with the changing of units that will be forgotten in a few days or weeks.

Therefore, I would ask the Minister to introduce some regulation which will ensure that it is kept repeatedly before the authorities that this man was a cadet originally. One might go so far as to suggest that he should wear some token on his uniform. There might be something to that effect marked in his pay book in red ink so that every week it came before the company sergeant major and the officer who was paying out. I suggest that they deserve some recognition, and that it will be to the good of the Cadet Forces as a whole and the Army as a whole if something in that nature is done.

I support very warmly indeed what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has said. I would go even a little further than the hon. and gallant Member. He has said that he hopes that members of the cadet forces when they enter into national service will there find some recognition. Surely the important thing is that they should know in advance that they will have some recognition. It must be made clear to them in advance that, if they have reached an appropriate standard of efficiency in the cadet forces, they will, when they go for national service, obtain definite advantages. By definite advantages, I do not mean differential treatment in the way of the training they receive. It was suggested originally, that there should be a remission of service for those who had obtained a requisite standard. That was in connection with the 18 months' service, but now that it is to be 12 months, that cannot apply, and it would be wrong in the circumstances to press for a remission of service.

On the other hand, it is obviously desirable to make clear that if they have reached an appropriate standard before' hand their chances, for example, of being commissioned during their period of national service will be very greatly enhanced, and their chance of getting admission to the branch of their choice will be greatly enhanced—not only the Service of their choice but branch of their choice. In addition, there are many branches which actually require pre-Service training if boys are to reach any standard of efficiency during the period of their 12 months' service. During the Debate on an earlier Amendment, it was made clear that quite apart from training as a unit, it would be impossible for a man to reach the standard of personal efficiency, say, in the Royal Armoured Corps, in 12 months, but if he already had an aptitude for wireless, for instance, before joining the Royal Armoured Corps he would be well on the way towards reaching proficiency in that service.

During wartime, it is possible for men to be called up into the Services and become enthused quickly, and they attain an aptitude and a keenness in whatever branch of the Service they enter in a much shorter time than is possible in peacetime. If they have an aptitude for learning the technique of the Service it is only human nature that they should wish to apply that technique and become more efficient soldiers, sailors or airmen. Therefore, it is a question of encouraging the maximum number of people to enter the cadet corps and at present very little encouragement is being offered to these people. Already there are signs of the grants being cut down. That process must be reversed and there must be the fullest inducement to boys to enter the corps knowing that when they go into the Services it will be a definite advantage.

12 noon.

I support the new Clause proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). I realise that there is a difficulty in making a regulation which will ensure the object of this new Clause, but that might be overcome by providing so that young men know, before they are called up, that the fact that they have been attending the cadet corps does pay and that those who have attended such a corps will, during the period of their call-up, get some sort of advantage or will be given a good start, as a recognition of the hard work which they have put in. I cannot suggest the exact way in which that could be done, but I do make one suggestion which might have some immediate effect. Suppose all those who have been in the cadet corps were excused fatigues, there would be a rush to secure that privilege. That might be impracticable, but certainly some inducement should be offered. First it would be a sign from the Government that they approve of the cadet corps and hope to keep them going; and, secondly, it would provide some who will leaven the lump of ignorance and help others on their call up.

I think the object of this new Clause is to try to fit square pegs into round holes as regards the call-up for the Army. I do not think that it will achieve the object lion. Members have in view, because the people responsible in the past for running the Services have been hide-bound traditionalists. I would give the Committee one or two cases in point. One was a case of my own son. He was a specialist engineer and he placed his knowledge at the disposal of the Army authorities. They directed him to drive a Bren gun carrier. Another young man I know well was interviewed by a psychologist who was a lady. She said to him "Can you explain what a crank-shaft is?" Being an engineer he asked her, "Do you know what a crank-shaft is?" and she said, "No." He said that it would be very difficult for him to explain, and she immediately wrote down, "Not adaptable."

While I have some sympathy with this new Clause, I see very big difficulties in connection with it. In the first place, some of us raised the question of the cadet corps on the Service Estimates and I understood—and the Secretary of State for War can correct me if I am wrong—that there is at the present moment a ceiling for the sea cadets and a ceiling for the A.T.C. Is it possible to offer an incentive for a force, which has a ceiling? It was different during the war. During the war, one in five coming forward to the R.A.F. were from the A.T.C. A cadet there did arithmetic called celestial navigation, because he knew that in a year or two he would have wings on his tunic. There was then a definite incentive. What the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) is trying to ensure, is that we offer an incentive which is bound to be somewhat artificial in peacetime.

There is the further difficulty that at present we are trying to see that scouting is encouraged not only in the old-established secondary schools, but in the new county secondary schools and that this is to be reckoned to them for righteousness, Incidentally, there are the sea scouts. There seems to be a little confusion under all these heads, for if we tried to mould the whole of the youth of this country into a certain type of proficiency for the Army it might create difficulties. It is probably to the general advantage that a well-educated young man will have some efficiency in these matters, but I see great difficulties ahead. What happens to the people who do not come in under the ceiling? Would the Under-Secretary of State for Air be prepared to raise the A.T.C. ceiling from what it is at present—I think it is 25,000—to 50,000? As I say there are practical difficulties at the moment in making definite regulations on this subject.

The hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Lindsay) has indicated some of the difficulties which will prevent me from accepting this new Clause, but let the Committee understand that I am in complete agreement and sympathy with all that has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite and in sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) in the case of his own son. Incidents will happen, however carefully we draw a Bill or a regulation, as the right hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite, who have spoken on this new Clause know only too well. What I think we have to keep in view on all these matters is the spirit lying behind them, because the Bill has to be translated into action some time. As far as the cadet movement is concerned, all three Services recognise the great value of it and encourage it. If I may speak about the Army about which I know myself, we are making a very prominent feature in our auxiliary defence of the cadets. In passing, may I say that when I was a cadet in the Church Lads Brigade—and I think that organisation is still running—I was a boy in quite a poor neighbourhood of London. On the other hand that was really the only outlet for me, whereby I got some sort of disciplinary training and also physical training in sport. I can speak with practical experience of the value which that cadet movement gave to me, and I think hon. Members will understand that I shall do all I can to see that it is fostered and is encouraged in the Army.

Let us now come down to practical politics. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) mentioned two salient points—uniforms for the cadets and instructors for them. I can understand that the cadet is enthusiastic—of course he will not be otherwise, or he would not join the movement—and likes to see himself and likes his friends to see him in his smart uniform. That is why recently in the Army, we have been able to approve an issue of greatcoats, which they did not get hitherto, and also boots.

Boots are also essential for civil life, and I should not be at all surprised if some of the cadets might want to use those issued by the Army for everyday wear. Being a father myself, I can understand the difficulties that mothers have in finding coupons to buy boots and shoes for their children, and I feel that this might perhaps be an inducement to mothers to encourage their sons to join the cadet movement. However, we have done our best within the limited material available to provide these cadets with a full uniform, including greatcoats and boots, so that they will have some self-respect and be able to carry out their training duties efficiently. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's point about uniform.

With regard to instructors, the cadet movement in the Army and the Air Force at any rate—the sea is somewhat different—will be linked up with the Territorial Forces. As a result the cadets will have opportunities of being instructed by the instructors attached to the Territorial Force. The Reserve Forces are provided for in this Bill, and since they are the main Reserves of the country it is obvious that if we are intending to ask for a compulsory reserve training liability on the national service men we in the Services will have to see that they are properly trained—and we shall. The cadets will have the benefit of that. One other point is that we are arranging that for two months in every year the Regular Army is to drop its own particular training and turn all its efforts on to the Territorial Army. This will have two effects. It will ensure that Territorial Army training is speeded up and improved during that two months period—roughly the camp period—and it will also have the indirect benefit to the cadet for which the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing has asked.

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that for two months in every year the Army would be turned over to training the Territorial Force, and if so what will happen to the training of the conscripts recruited to the Regular Army?

Obviously, the training of the Army at the depots will carry on. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not take my statement too literally. Of course we have to carry on the ordinary training of the national service men and that is done in the primary training centres during the initial six weeks after they come in. That will carry on throughout the year, and what I am trying to point out is that for a certain period of the year the regular Army will give more intensive training to the Territorial Force, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will understand my statement in that sense. The cadet movement will benefit by being linked up to the Territorial Army. I hope that I have answered the two points which were raised and have satisfied the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the cadets are to receive first uniform, and, second, good training. I come now to the other point concerning the ceiling mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the universities.

12.15 p.m.

That is fixed just as there is to be a ceiling fixed in the Territorial Army and the Regular Army. There are various forms of cadet movement and there will be plenty of outlets for these young men, but we have fixed a ceiling because we cannot carry out more than a certain amount of training in the limited stages. If, however, there is a sudden rush to volunteer for the cadet forces I hope provision will be made to meet it, but I cannot accept this new Clause because we need to have elbow room to make our plans and do not want to be tied down to making Regulations. There is no provision anywhere in this Bill for training Regulations, and I think it would be a mistake if we were forced by this new Clause to say in the Bill that we have to make Regulations in order to give some preference to the cadet when he joins the Army.

If you give substantial preference to people who have been in a cadet force and then there are no places in that force, so that there is a very distinct limitation, it is positively unfair. There must, therefore, be a guarantee that the number of places in the Cadet corps will be increased, if the demand warrants it.

I should have thought that that was a very suitable point to discuss on the various Service Estimates.

The hon. Gentleman must try again next year. With regard to the preferential treatment which this Clause provides for cadets who have some pre-Service training, the point is that we already give them preference. It would, however, be very difficult to say what form that preference should take.

I really must get on. I am trying to deal with this matter as comprehensively as possible. Providing always that he is still up to standard, a cadet who has had pre-Service training has his primary training period reduced from six weeks to four when he comes into the Army. That is the first preference he receives. Then—also if he is up to the standard required—he is immediately marked out for leadership, but leadership can take various forms.

That is the point. Is there any form such as an efficiency certificate that follows a cadet so that the fact that he has reached that stage of efficiency is kept before the Service authorities?

I thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite desired to do away with as many forms as possible, but let me tell the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing), if he does not know, that there is a Ministry of Labour interview when the recruit is asked various questions by the military interviewing officer. We have charge of him when he comes into the Services and there he fills up a great many more details concerning things such as pre-Service training. In addition we have a specialised type of personnel selection in the Army by which we can be reasonably sure that, generally speaking, we shall be able in the first six months of the primary training of a recruit to spot the potential leader. During that period and with these methods we shall be able to determine which are the good cadets, and they will be marked out both for promotion in the non-commissioned ranks and as potential officers.

I am impinging on a later Amendment when I point out the difficulty of giving a man his commission during the 12 months training period, but I should just like to say that he will be marked out as a potential officer if he makes the grade. I hope that I have shown the Committee to their satisfaction not only that we will do what is desired, but that we are already doing it in the Services. We are making provision to see that those with pre-Service training in the cadet movement shall receive preference when they come into the Army, providing always that they maintain the necessary standard.

I am sure that we are all grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's interesting survey, but I do not think he has given any reason why this new Clause should not be included in the Bill. We are asking for special provision, not for any preferential treatment. We want to ensure that these boys, who have put in a great deal of work in the cadet corps, get some recognition for that work when they join the Forces. That work will be of great benefit to the Forces. It might have an influence on the branch of the Service they go into. For example, the sea cadets reach a high standard in signalling and wireless. That should help a lot in deciding the branch for which they should be selected. There should be some guarantee in the Bill that a boy who has served in one of the cadet forces shall not have hanging over him the possibility of being called up for one of the other Forces.

I do not think the hon. and gallant Member can go into that question on this Clause.

I think that the Secretary of State displays an ignorance of the purpose of legis- lation. He talks about wanting elbow room and about "accidents will happen." The purpose of passing Statutes is that Ministers shall not have elbow room, which also by many soldiers is considered a thing to be drilled out of. The Secretary of State talks about accidents happening. The purpose of legislation is to decasualise the impingeing of compulsion on. His Majesty's subjects, the unpredictability of the ways in which their lives may be affected by legislation. I hope that the Secretary of State, who I think might have given the rest of the Committee more chance to explain their reasons to him before he announced his decision, has not been excessively influenced by the two speeches made against the new Clause. They were two very good speeches, one from the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) who talked about female psychiatrists being hidebound—

That is technically inaccurate. It may well be that female psychiatrists are hidebound. That is a speculation which may lead the imagination very far.

I hope that the hon. Member will not attempt to take the Committee quite so far.

It was not even I. The argument that because, as present arrangements are, square pegs do not get put into square holes, therefore, the Minister ought to resist a new Clause designed to make it more likely that pegs, having reached a certain stage of preparatory squareness, should be directed towards holes of a more or less square shape, seems to be an argument which should not have carried weight with the Minister. Similarly, I think the argument about a ceiling was rather like an earlier argument which I thought reduced Socialist ideas to the point of parody, that because everybody cannot have the best cheese no one should have anything but the worst cheese. The argument that because not everybody can have preparatory shaping for military training—

That was not my argument at all. There is no overall selection in the cadet corps. Boys join as and when they can. The hon. Member has missed my point.

I do not know whether one can miss the non-existent. There is a selection for the cadet corps by reason of the fact that persons chosen to go into them are, by presenting themselves, selecting themselves as persons likely to have an aptitude for military service. Whether or not they have a congenital aptitude, having been through the cadet corps, they will certainly have a better aptitude than the generality of the population can be presumed to have. That being so, it seems to me obviously right that there should be some legislative provisions that these poeple, being more likely to be useful for military purposes, should be used with a particular eye upon their aptitude and preparation. That is all for which the Clause is asking. I ask the Secretary of State to reconsider, whether he is really wise in resisting it.

In dealing with this new Clause the right hon. Gentleman made an interesting speech, covering a wide field, tempting one, perhaps, to divert one's remarks from strict application to the proposals contained in the new Clause. I do not propose to follow, in any great degree, the temptation which he has put before me I am a little alarmed about the announcement he has made that for two months of every year the Regular Army will be diverted to training Territorials. I am not sure that that will operate to the best advantage in the national interest, but I do not that this is the right occasion to discuss that. I merely put the matter on record.

In the whole of his speech, which lasted a considerable time, the right hon. Gentleman devoted only his last few observations to the particular point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend when he moved this Clause. He then said that the War Office does give preference to cadets but that it was difficult to say how it was given Then he went on to say that it was given in two respects, one, that the basic training was, in the case of pro- ficient Army cadets, reduced from six to four weeks. Is that a maximum reduction? Is there a possibility of any further reduction, depending upon the efficiency of the cadets?

No, it would perhaps mean reducing the primary training period almost to zero if we did that. Obviously, the cadet's training will not be quite the same as a soldier's training, and he must carry out a minimum of primary training. The maximum reduction is two weeks.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for stating that fact. Turning to the second point, the right hon. Gentleman said that they would be marked out for leadership. It is obvious, from what the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) said, that the marking sometimes goes wrong. We should have heard a fuller explanation of how that marking out is done. The point which is raised by this Amendment is to ensure that the proficient cadet, whether he be an Army, Air Force or Naval cadet, shall have that fact brought to, and kept in front of, the attention of his superiors, and not merely have it filled in on a form which is filed away and forgotten. That is the danger of what might happen through a multiplicity of forms. Whether a form or some other method is used, we hope to get some assurance that it would be kept throughout before the attention of the cadet's superior officers. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that. He might have meant it. I hope that may be the case.

2.30 p.m.

I hope that the Secretary of State will agree that now that whole-time service is being reduced from 18 to 12 months, the importance of the role to be played by the cadet forces is greatly increased. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is in complete agreement and in sympathy with the aim behind this new Clause and I hope that he will, consequently, in view of that enhanced role, give greater encouragement to the cadet movement than is now provided.

But he can go a little further than that, and I hope he will, to encourage people to join the cadets. The Minister mentioned the question of instructors. I was hoping that he would say something about the officers' position in the Army cadet force, because it is very important that these cadet forces should be well officered. At present, there are discrepancies between the treatment of officers of the cadet forces and officers of other branches, and I hoped the Minister would have said that these differences were to be eliminated. It is only by getting the right officers, and securing that these people are properly marked—if I can use that expression—that the Minister will be able to give the encouragement to the cadet forces that is so urgently needed. However; in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and in the hope that he will put more elbow power behind what he has said, we do not propose to divide the Committee on this Motion.

I do not wish to take up more than half a minute of the Committee's time, but I am completely puzzled to understand the attitude of my right hon. Friends on this side and Members opposite, who claim to be supporters of this Bill, towards this series of Amendments. We have now spent 45 minutes on a proposed new Clause which merely asks that the Service authorities shall, by regulation, make special provision—

In view of that interruption it will be another 15 seconds. Unless there is a determination to talk the Bill out, I should have thought that complete satisfaction could have been given much earlier. The long discussion on what the provisions were to be, for what persons and in what manner, kind and degree, need not have arisen, because there was complete agreement. We have wasted nearly 45 minutes of the Committee's time.

The Minister does not seem to have appreciated the full significance of this new Clause. He mentioned incentive and recognition. Why not give a little more incentive to the sea cadets—the most important and senior group of cadets? At present, they join groups at the age of 12, and the Admiralty does not recognise them until they are 14. Some will serve until they are 18. After six years of trying to do their best to get sea training there is a great possibility that many of them will go into the Army, and peel potatoes. During the war, I saw uniforms covered with flags and insignia of every description. I imagine that these chaps will be going into the Services without anything on their uniforms. Why should they not have a small sign to show that, in the cadet movement, they achieved a standard of efficiency? Such a sign would be of help to their officers. The Minister of Defence was very fond of the sea cadets when he was First Lord of the Admiralty, and I hope that he will do a lot for them in his new position.

We shall watch very carefully to see whether the assurances given by the Minister will be implemented. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

May I ask for your guidance, Major Milner? We have already taken up one-third of the time allotted for our deliberations today, and I wonder whether it would be possible, at this stage, for us to have some guidance from the Front Bench as to their intentions.

I wonder whether we might have your guidance, Major Milner, on a preliminary point. I do not challenge your action in not intending to call the second new Clause—(Attainment of commissioned rank)—standing in my name, but I should like to ask you whether there is any doubt about that new Clause having been in Order and, therefore, conceivably discussible on the Report stage? In that case, may I refer to that new Clause in my remarks about the new Clause—(Commissions)—standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and myself?

In the exercise of my discretion I have selected the proposed new Clause dealing with commissions. The hon. Member can make references to the previous two new Clauses standing in his name of he desires to do so.